“I was fast for a big six footer and played near the edge of the court while little Fats Jenkins dribbled them silly.”
– Paul Robeson, 1978
St. Christopher Club, Commonwealth Big Five
Harlem, New York City
Few people know that Paul Robeson was a star basketball player during the 1910s, and even played the sport as a professional.
Robeson first made headlines on the court when he joined the basketball team of the all-black St. Christopher Club in 1916 while a sophomore at Rutgers University.
While at Rutgers, Robeson would earn twelve varsity letters and be named twice as an All American in football.
Though he was a football star, Robeson may have been even better in basketball. As a huge power forward with the nickname “Tiny”, he led St. Christopher “St. C’s” to three Colored Basketball World’s Championships including the 1919 title while attending law school at Columbia University.
Robeson then played for the first all-black professional basketball team, the Commonwealth Big Five of Harlem.
Later, Robeson also played two seasons of pro football including one year in the early National Football League before becoming a world renowned Broadway and film actor, recording artist, concert performer, radio star, human rights activist, cultural promoter, and goodwill ambassador.
Despite many accolades throughout his life, the St. Christopher Club was perhaps his most cherished experience. Robeson would later say, “of all these activities the closest to my heart remains the St. C.”